Theme Park Insider

About that 'original' hand-drawn Disneyland map...

May 12, 2017, 10:57 AM · You might have seen a story all over the news in past week about the original hand-drawn concept map for Disneyland, which will be going to auction later this year.

"A hand-drawn map of Disneyland by Walt Disney himself is about to become available," by ABC News

"The map, which is being touted as the 'first-ever' diagram of the park, is being offered for sale," by Observer.com

"In 1954, the map was enhanced with additional black outlines and color as well as new sketches within hte [sic] landscape to be used ass [sic] the main promotional image for the park leading up to Disneyland's 1955 opening," by the Orlando Sentinel.

You also might have noticed that we haven't written anything about this map here on Theme Park Insider. That's because this story just didn't smell right to me when it started appearing online. The original concept map of Disneyland, hand-drawn by Herb Ryman in 1953, sits safely in the archives of Walt Disney Imagineering. It's not for sale and likely never will be. So what is this?

A post on the Facebook page of Friends of the Walt Disney Family Museum provides some insight: "This is simply a large-format photostat or brownline of Herb Ryman's original drawing.... Dozens of these were made to pitch the Park to investors and participants."

Ryman's original was drawn in pencil on vellum. It's not exactly the sort of thing one rolls up and takes on an airplane. Nor was the original inked and colored, as this map has been.

A representative of Van Eaton Galleries, which is managing the sale of the map, replied to the Facebook post, defending the importance of the item for sale but acknowledging that the map is not a Walt-drawn original as some news reports have claimed. "The vellum pencil drawing was used to transfer the line work to this map, which was then hand colored, inked, mounted to a presentation board, and taken to New York by Roy Disney to pitch to ABC."

What I haven't been able to find is if any other reproductions of Ryman's original were made for other pitches leading up to the start of construction at Disneyland. Additional copies in circulation, obviously, would affect the value of piece.

Clearly, this is an impressive piece of Disney memorabilia, but as a Disney fan and someone who covers theme parks for a living, it's maddening to see bad information get such wide coverage.

The Walt Disney Company generally does an excellent job of archiving its historical artifacts. So if you ever see a story about a "one of a kind" or "original" piece of Disney history coming up for sale, crank your skepticism up a notch. Truly significant one-of-a-kind originals of Disney history are almost certainly locked up in Disney's archives. That doesn't mean that you can't find some rare and valuable pieces of Disney history out there on the market. Just be wary of superlative claims.

And if you read or hear about something supposedly hand-drawn by Walt, get really skeptical. If the piece is large, impressive, or production quality, it's almost certainly not from the hand of Walt, who famously couldn't drawn very well. Instead, Walt hired amazing artists to depict his visions, such as Ub Iwerks for Disney's early animation work and Ryman for theme park concepts.

One of the dirty secrets of the news industry is how many stories are simply regurgitated press releases. And worse, how many stories contain errors created by the attempt of writers — with no experience or training in the topic they are covering — to make their stories simpler and more appealing to a wide audience. My wife, who runs Violinist.com, just addressed a similar clusterbunk of coverage from major news organizations on her beat this week, too. But I suppose I should look on the bright side. The more errors that big news outlets make, the more opportunity they create for people like us to correct them. (Smile)

So there ya go. That's the story on the Disneyland map you might have read so much about this week.

Replies (6)

May 12, 2017 at 11:11 AM · Thank you for this. Something smelled fishy from the start -- why would some random Disney employee be awarded the original concept art for the park, especially while Walt was still around? Why would someone even sell something of so much importance on eBay? The idea that it's a reproduction bodes well with my knowledge, but also is a god thing for any Disney collector.

It's a great piece of artwork, make no mistake. A fantastic addition to any collection, as long as they understand that it's a reproduction. But to sell a replica as if it was the original is just plain dishonest.

May 12, 2017 at 2:39 PM · I saw this story today, and also thought, "hey, isn't that in the Imagineering archives--what is this?"

On a few occasions I've seen Disney's own copies of the vellum map--at one of the D23 Expo exhibits, believe at the Reagan Library's D23 exhibit, and I'm not sure if it was the original or a copy, but I'm pretty certain the map was part of the amazing Overdrive: LA Constructs the Future exhibit at the Getty Center a few years ago, too.

May 12, 2017 at 2:59 PM · This Van Eaton Gallery is getting over their head. I went to visit the gallery for their last Disney auction (that seems to be all they do now). There were multiple items that were mislabeled. They had an old Meet the World animatronic mask labeled as a jack sparrow mask from the Disneyland pirates redo. Anyone with cursory Disney knowledge would know that the latex design of the head they had on display was far earlier than the mid 2000s pirates redo. They also had a monorail costume labeled as a Disneyland costume even though WDW was clearly imprinted on the butons and the old costume tag said Walt Disney World. When I brought up those two glaring mistakes they just kind of shrugged.
May 13, 2017 at 1:36 PM · They just kind of shrugged...wow, very professional attitude!
May 13, 2017 at 5:26 PM · Van Eaton Galleries put up a history of the map they're selling: https://vegalleries.com/themap

They say a few things:
1) The pencil drawing the archives has didn't go to New York because vellum is too fragile.
2) Their map was the one that went to New York and sold the idea of the park in 1953.
3) Their map was kept at the studio and used in the development of the park in 1954.
4) Their map was later enhanced and used as the first publicly released map of Disneyland in 1954.

Still an important piece, especially if it's the main piece that went to New York. It's just not hand-drawn by Walt as the title of some of the news articles state. It'll be interesting to see what comes of this.

May 14, 2017 at 12:50 AM · Just to play the devil's advocate (which I hope will be welcomed to this discussion), there are a few points that should be discussed. The image that Disney Archives has is in black and white (with grey shading). And it's reported by Disney Archives that Ryman drew the map first on vellum. But if that is true, then why does Archive's version have grey shading that matches perfectly with what is clearly the color ink portions of the Van Eaton image? If you pause the image at 25 seconds - https://vegalleries.com/themap and compare to the 4th image on http://www.yesterland.com/ryman.html - you can compare the wall of the Castle and see that Van Eaton's color ink portions show up as grey shading on Disney Archive's map. This is very apparent and seems to indicate that the Van Eaton drawing is actually the original and Archives has the black and white transferred image. Disney Archives may have believed this whole time they had the original. But perhaps this should be revisited.

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